The Prince As A Modern Political Treatise
By Shaier J. Sattar
Written almost 500 years ago by the so called first political scientist in the world, Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince” brings forward a new definition to virtue. A definition which argues against the concept brought forward by the Catholic Church. Machiavelli did not impose any thoughts of his own rather he only wrote from his experience and whatever philosophy that lead to actions which essentially produced effective outcomes in the political scene of Italy and in other countries. While he is still criticized for his notions, the truth is that, consciously or subconsciously we are all thinking for our own benefit and going at length to achieve it. At matters of power where there is much to gain and a lot more to lose, the concept of Machiavelli’s virtue of being able to do what the situation requires you to do applies rigorously to our modern politics and thus the prince still serves as a suitable political treatise in the 21st century.
The subject of human nature has heavy emphasis in “The Prince”. Human beings are viewed as rational decision makers who try to maximize their self-interest. They are inclined to help whoever will give them the most benefits and by definition, may easily betray someone to whom they were previously loyal seeing a better opportunity. A large part of being a prince or a politician is being able to lead people, and therefore it is of utter importance in how to deal with their behavior. “Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved. . . . Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present” one of Machiavelli’s most famous quotes from chapter 17 of “The Prince”. Machiavelli suggested mass controlling techniques, where large masses were to be led by two ways. One is being loved by the mass and the other is to make them be afraid. While it is desirable to be loved, the control of that frame is not within the hands of a prince. Yes, a prince might do what it takes to be loved however external factors might drive the mass to still work against him. On the other hand he can lead by fear. The most precious treasure to any human is their life, while gaining anything acts as a motivation but if someone is put in a position to lose his or her life they will do whatever it takes to preserve it. And this technique has the merit of being under the control of the prince. Machiavelli has suggested time again that it is important to have that control to yourself rather than giving it to the people you lead. The underlying reason is that it...